FABBS Foundation Honors Shelley Taylor
Shelley E. Taylor, PhD (University of California, Los Angeles) is now featured in the FABBS Foundation's "In Honor of..." program which honors eminent, senior scientists.
Socioemotional resources, including optimism, mastery, self-esteem, and social support, have biological and psychological benefits, especially in times of stress. Taylor's research program of the last twenty-five years has explored these resources and documented their many benefits for mental and physical health. Under some circumstances, socioemotional resources can assume the form of "positive illusions," namely overly positive self perceptions, an illusion of personal control, and unrealistic optimism about the future. Moreover, just as socioemotional resources more generally are protective of health, so these illusory beliefs have been found to be largely beneficial as well and associated with criteria indicative of mental and physical health: positive self-regard, the ability to care for and about other people, the capacity for creative and productive work, the ability to manage and grow from stressful life experiences, and reduced biological (cardiovascular, inflammatory, HPA axis) responses to threatening events.
Taylor's current work explores the genetic, early environmental, and neurocognitive origins of these resources in conjunction with their beneficial consequences. Specifically, Taylor examines genes related to serotonergic, oxytocinergic, and opioid functioning; childhood socioeconomic status and early family environment as indicators of childhood environment; and neural mechanisms (ACC, amygdala, hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex) that link socioemotional resources to low psychological and biological stress responses (cardiovascular, HPA axis, and pro-inflammatory cytokines). As such, Taylor's current work integrates perspectives from genetics, psychoneuroimmunology, health psychology, and social neuroscience.